Like many of you, I was sitting at home Sunday night when I heard Osama bin Laden was dead. That was the way I heard it first, via a Twitter alert on my laptop. At that point, I assumed maybe he'd just died — of cancer, a heart attack, or maybe kidney failure. A few minutes later, President Obama came on television to make a formal announcement of the al-Qaeda leader's death.
On Monday, more details were revealed: A team of Navy SEALS had gone into deepest Pakistan and performed a bold, surgical strike on bin Laden's palatial hideout. In the resulting firefight, the 9/11 mastermind had been shot and killed. Around the country, crowds gathered to celebrate.
I would have preferred that we'd captured the bastard and given him a trial for all the world to see. But if our soldiers are in a fight, then shooting back and killing the enemy is the only sane option, and I'm okay with the result.
The irony was not lost on me that George W. Bush's promise to hunt down bin Laden had been fulfilled by Obama 10 years later. Nor was I unhappy that Obama, who has been plagued by birthers and others who doubt his religion and his patriotism, was in office when the deed was done. Surely, I thought, this will quiet some of those folks.
Wrong. The next day, a furious co-worker claimed it was all a sham. She said that because bin Laden was buried at sea, it was proof that we hadn't gotten our man. "It's that damn Obama. He's just doing this to get re-elected. Now, we can't even see the body." I read similar sentiments on various right-wing websites.
Yes, there really are people who hate Obama enough to believe that the president, a squad of Navy SEALS, a ship-load of American sailors, the secretary of defense, the head of the CIA, the government of Pakistan (which agreed to the raid), and countless others were part of a grand conspiracy to falsely convince the American public — and the whole watching world — that bin Laden had been killed.
I wonder what it would take to satisfy these people. Parading the bloody body down Pennsylvania Avenue? Allowing Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump access to the corpse so they could use their own Tea Party-certified DNA experts? I don't know. I do know that Osama bin Laden's death seems to have done little to remove the irrational stench of distrust from our politics. Sadly, that boogeyman remains at large.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...